Documents to download

The Senate of Canada is the second chamber of the country’s Westminster-style bicameral Parliament. Its members are appointed by the Governor General, representing the Queen of Canada (Elizabeth II), on the advice of the Prime Minister. The duties of the Senate include examining and revising legislation; investigating national issues through committee work; and representing regional, provincial and minority interests. Historically, appointments to the Senate of Canada have invariably been made on a party-political basis, with prime ministers rarely appointing senators from other parties or independents.

In October 2015, the Liberal Party of Canada won a majority in Canada’s House of Commons following federal elections. As part of its policy platform published ahead of the election and in line with a position earlier outlined by Leader Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party undertook to create a new, merit-based process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments should the party win a majority in the election and form the next government. The objective of this policy was to encourage a more independent Senate comprising fewer senators with political affiliations.

Once in office, the new Liberal Government initiated the implementation of this policy with the creation of an Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments. The Board has completed the first, transitional phase of its work, which involved recommending individuals to Prime Minister Trudeau for appointment to fill seven vacancies in the Senate. In March 2016—as a result of this process—the Prime Minister announced the appointment of seven independent senators, all of whom had been recommended by the Advisory Board. As part of the second, permanent phase, the Board is now considering applications from Canadian citizens for 20 existing vacancies. The Canadian Government expects to fill all current vacancies by the end of 2016.

Canadian politicians and commentators have argued that the merit-based appointment of independent senators will change the character of the Senate. It will also mean that the Government will not have a majority—either political or absolute—in the second chamber, which may have implications for the carrying or passing of its legislative programme. Examples of contrasting opinion on the changes are included in a further reading list.

The briefing follows a previous House of Lords Library briefing on the subject of bicameral legislatures worldwide, entitled Second Chambers (10 March 2014).


Documents to download

Related posts

  • The United Kingdom Internal Market Bill is a government bill that would make provision for the continuation of the UK’s single market when the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. As part of this it would provide for the ‘market access principles’ of mutual recognition and non-discrimination to apply to the sale of goods and the provision of services within the UK. It also seeks to provide unfettered access for qualifying Northern Ireland goods to the market in Great Britain. It contains provisions that seek to give ministers the power to unilaterally interpret, modify the application of or disapply parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, notwithstanding their obligations under relevant international and domestic law.

  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has introduced requirements to wear face coverings in specified locations. These have been updated several times, to broaden the scope of the rules and to increase the financial penalties for non-compliance. This article looks at the requirements imposed by three instruments that came into force on 23 and 24 September 2020 and are being debated in the House of Lords on 12 October 2020.